U.S. Spent $27 Million on ‘Ineffective’ Pottery Classes--in Morocco

Elizabeth Harrington | October 18, 2012 | 11:17am EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - The federal government spent $27 million teaching Moroccans how to make pottery, a project that yielded less than stellar results, according to Sen. Tom Coburn’s recently released Waste Book 2012.

Some pottery students showed up just to get the free lunches, and one pottery class reported just 10 regular students, according to information compiled by Coburn.

The Oklahoma Republican’s annual catalogue of frivolous government spending says the pottery program began in 2009 as part of an attempt to “improve the economic competitiveness of Morocco.”

Coburn said a review by the Inspector General for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversaw the program, found that the project was “not on track to achieve its goals.”

“A key part of the project involved training Moroccans to create and design pottery to sell in domestic and international markets,” the 2012 “Waste Book” explains.  “To accomplish this, an American pottery instructor was contracted to provide several weeks of training classes to local artists to improve their methods and teach them how to successfully make pottery that could be brought to market.

“Unfortunately, the translator hired for the sessions was not fluent in English and was unable to transmit large portions of the lectures to the participants,” it said.

Moreover, the instructor “frequently forgot to bring the right materials to class,” and the dyes and clays he did use were not sold in Morocco – “making it impossible for the trainees to replicate the methods they had learned.”

The IG report, released in December 2011, concluded the “pottery training was ineffective, and women and youth were not included.” Ultimately, women accounted for just 25 percent of trainees.

“Moroccans have been making pottery since at least the fifth century B.C., with the earliest urban pottery made after 800 A.D.,” Coburn noted. “Perhaps USAID could learn a thing or two about pottery making from Moroccans, who have been passing knowledge of the ancient craft from one generation to another for centuries.”

The 2012 Waste Book aims to shine a light on unnecessary federal spending.  This year, Coburn documented 100 examples, resulting a total of $18-billion wasted dollars.

“As you look at these examples,” he writes to the taxpayer, “put your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Would you agree with Washington that these represent national priorities, or would you conclude these reflect the out-of-touch and out-of-control spending threatening to bankrupt our nation’s future?”

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